Why The Great Content Wave Must Break

Or, why it’s time to spend a little less time with a device in your hand.

The web has a content problem.

In its early days the web was an open expanse of text, connected by hyperlinks, and visually distinguished by typography and what we now think of as miserable attempts at page design. It was a slower place, where people could connect with ideas and persons through the distance of reading a web-page, sending an e-mail, or participating in a forum. Well placed, distinguishable hyperlinks would lead users through a labyrinth of slow information that came without the emotional entrapment of the possibility to share, or like it.

Today, the web is fast and channeled. Users spend vast amounts of time within social networks - not chasing hyperlinks from site to site - and viewing visual content, such as memes, videos, custom, and stock photography. New content is created by the minute, by billions of publishers across the globe. Personalization and algorithms often determine how much, if any, new information a user comes across in their daily digital habits. The ability to block ads, spam, persons, and brands has allowed users to create what Eli Pariser calls filter bubbles, in which a user wittingly or unwittingly isolates themselves from new information, ideas, and people.

Algorithms, with their task of ranking content on the web, and within social networks, have been making the web a competitive space where brands - and personas - are forced to publish, and publish, and publish in order to rank higher in search results, and reach more viewers, to meet their end goals.

However, publishing for the sake of tripping algorithms and flooding newsfeeds has diluted the web, driving authentic content further down in search results and news feeds. This is a disservice to audiences, and all those who are earnestly seeking accurate information. Brands cannot wait for the infrastructure of the web to change before they make a shift in their content strategies. They must abandon arbitrary metrics and unsustainable goals, and instead work to create a more authentic digital presence.

Authenticity, is, admittedly, hard to gauge on the web. It’s not a matter of honesty, as one might expect, but rather a matter of delivery. Extemporaneous content, unrefined in its production (refined in its accuracy), created in the moment often translates as authentic (and thereby more approachable and sharable). Audiences respond to seeing stories unfold as they happen, and are excited about the opportunity to participate in discussions in real time.

We know this well. For quite some time we subscribed to the same, toxic, more is more, less is failure, strategy that we just decried. At the height of that madness, our nimble team worked to push out 15-20 social media posts per day, and produce 12-15 blog posts (many long form) per month. All while working to serve our clients. It was unsustainable, and it turned our social media profiles into fire hoses of the same old content. Then we dialed it back. We started sharing photos from meetings, from brainstorming sessions, and videos of us working, or equipment running at our production facility. Some days we post just as much as we used to. Some days we do not. Some days we post even more. No matter what, our audience has responded to receiving authentic content and as a result, we are consistently seeing increases in our impressions, site visits, and engagement.

We are calling for brands to publish only when it creates value, or solves a problem for their audience. If you are tasking your talent with working overtime to keep a firehose of content running, in the name of keeping your brand’s name in your audience’s news feed: dial it back.

The wave of content must break.

To read more of our thoughts, download our 2017 Brand and Design Trends Report.

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